PASADENA, Calif. – The Los Angeles Galaxy learned first-hand on Saturday what sets world powers apart.
After falling behind by two goals at halftime, Real Madrid were able to throw on the likes of Gonzalo Higuaín, Cristiano Ronaldo and Xabi Alonso into the game for the second half. Not surprisingly, the match went from an even battle to a Spanish flamenco.
Higuaín had a brace and Alonso notched the game-winner as Real Madrid scored three goals in 19 minutes to win 3-2 before 89,134 at the Rose Bowl.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
For Gregg Berhalter, Real Madrid’s depth was phenomenal.
“They had quality throughout the whole roster. When you look at both [starting] 11’s, you would take both of those 11’s any day,” said Berhalter about the different players Real Madrid put out for each half.
While the first half featured players like Rafael van der Vaart, Lassana Diarra and Karim Benzema, Real Madrid seemed to improve on their quality when Higuaín and Alonso were joined on the field by Ronaldo and Iker Casillas.
Ronaldo set up the game’s first goal with a deadly pass from the left flank, as he sent a ball just out of Berhalter’s reach in towards Higuaín, who easily beat Josh Saunders from close range.[inline_node:315383]
Higuaín, who had a hat-trick for Argentina in a 4-1 win over South Korea at the World Cup, scored his second goal of the match after taking control of a rebound and shaking off a Galaxy defender before burying it into the back of the net.
“I was impressed with Higuaín at the World Cup and after watching him tonight, I’m even more impressed,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He’s a fabulous player. His pace was surprising how he outran a couple of players.”
Alonso won the match for Real Madrid by sending a rebound into the net in the 71st minute as the Spaniards came all the way back.
Having shown a killer instinct in the second half, Galaxy players said Real Madrid did so because of their halftime deficit.
“It was good for them probably,” Galaxy forward Edson Buddle said. “Down two goals, it pushes them in their preseason and gets them prepared for the season. Maybe if they were up they probably wouldn’t have played as hard and the fans got a chance to see them push a little bit and come out with the win.”
From the start of the second half, Real Madrid opened up the throttle and swarmed all over the Galaxy, who have had their share of recent defensive struggles. But LA could be forgiven somewhat for their most recent defensive collapse, particularly with Ronaldo and Higuaín keying the Blancos attack.
“Ronaldo is a great player and [he and Higuaín] are among two of the best attacking players in the world, there’s no question about that,” Arena said. “When they get their team organized the way Jose [Mourinho] wants them, they’re going to be a team that’s going to challenge for the Champions League and give Barcelona a run for their money in La Liga.”
Real Madrid played with an even greater fire in the second half, Berhalter said.
“You can tell the coach said something to them at halftime,” he said. “The coach said to them at halftime, ‘Let’s take this more seriously and let’s get after them,’ and that’s exactly what they did. We kind of lost a little bit of shape, but they were gunning in the second half. They didn’t want to get embarrassed. A lot of their first team was in the second half.”
The Galaxy had taken a 2-0 lead behind goals from Todd Dunivant and Landon Donovan, the latter scoring on a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time.
Giving a strong effort in front of the nearly 90,000 in attendance was also important, perhaps more so than the actual result.
“We knew it was an exhibition…and we wanted to give fans a good time,” Arena said. “Hopefully, they come back to Galaxy games and hopefully they come back for next year because I’m sure we’ll have another great exhibition at the Rose Bowl.”